Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly

By Jo Lopez

While I was walking to class the other day I looked down to see a leaflet stuck to the ground. It was folded so that all I could see read, “$4000.00 REWARD,” that was enough to make me pick it up.

What followed the unfolding of the leaflet stopped me in my tracks. The reward was for offering information that would help arrest and convict the person or persons that shot and killed Joseph Munz.

My column topic this week was already decided before seeing this leaflet, but man did this really drive it home.

You wouldn’t think it but homicides in Milwaukee are currently at a pace that will fall short of 2005.

O.K. here are a few numbers to back the claim of homicides being down; from January 1 to June 30 there were 59 murders in 2005, and during the same time in 2006 there were 49 (Milwaukee Police Department) a small drop, but a drop.

Then why is does it seem that it’s the other way around? I’ve been thinking on this for weeks. This thought led me to another more profound question. Does the local media coverage affect our perception of violence in Milwaukee?

To put it in one word, yes. The media plays a considerable role in shaping the way [we] look at our city and the community as a whole.

One side affect of the media’s over coverage has on many is that it causes a sense of hysteria. Watching the news can scare the crap out of people. People hear or read of the Munz killing or Special Olympian killed while waiting at bus stop, and freak.

You better watch out there old person, because evildoers are coming FOR YOU NEXT!!

I can’t say I blame them. Who I do blame is the person who coined the phrase “If it bleeds it leads,” when deciding what news stories to cover. This is not to say that the death of these two individuals isn’t news, it is in every way.

What gets to me is the amount of coverage each news outlet puts to it. Four different channels serving up the same dish on a different plate. The same answers to the same questions.

Another affect from the media bombardment is victimizing the victim. How many times do we see or hear of some bonehead reporter knocking on the door of mother who just lost their child hours ago to ask how they feel about their tragic lost. Yeah that’s just what they need.

When I see stunts like that I don’t feel more informed it makes squirm in my seat, and I want to change the channel. There is a time and place to ask questions, moments after a violent crime is not one of them.

Lastly there is the fear of people who live in these high crime areas that dread even calling the police to report a crime out of fear of becoming victims themselves.

If people were afraid to call the police, why would they talk to a reporter who is ringing their bell with a camera and microphone? Yeah let old lady Smith tell the nice reporter all about the bad people on your block. That is the last thing she needs.

Now that’s not to say all neighbors are like that, some do get involved just not in the media if they’re smart.

Yeah that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

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